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A Guide to Christian Baptism

26/09/2011

There is much confusion today about the subject of baptism. Many people are asking whether the baptism of infants is valid, and some churches are teaching that those who have been baptised in infancy need to be baptised again later in life. (People who teach this are known as anabaptists) In fact issues regarding baptism should never be a cause for division in the church. Paul spoke of baptism as being something that should unite Christians and bring them together!

If you have been thinking about baptism, or about having your baby baptised, then this little tract is designed to help you to decide what course of action you should take.

 

1. WHAT IS BAPTISM?

Baptism is a sacrament, ordained by our Saviour, the Lord Jesus, to be, unto the person being baptised, a sign and a seal of the Covenant of Grace. Baptism is rightly administered by the pouring or sprinkling of water on the person, but the mode of baptism is not the most important aspect of the ordinance, and some people believe that adults should be immersed.

 

1. Baptism is a SIGN. Baptism is symbolic, in that it reminds us that Christ died for repentant sinners on the Cross- to wash them from their sins. Paul talks about this in his letters. There he tells us that we are buried with Christ in baptism. Romans 6:4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Col. 2:12. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. So baptism points us to Christ and reminds us of the salvation from sin that was obtained for God’s elect people at Calvary.

2. Baptism is a SEAL. A seal marks something out as being different. In days gone by, person of some rank would have affixed a little wax seal to their correspondence, thus making it known to all that they were the originator and the sender of the letter. So it is with baptism. In baptism we are marked out as being different from the world, having Christ’s stamp of ownership upon us. But we can only belong to Christ by faith, for the Bible clearly teaches us  that it is only by Grace, through Faith that we are saved. This is why it is so important that FAITH IS PRESENT before baptism takes place; otherwise the ceremony of baptism becomes nothing more than empty meaningless ritual. When an adult or older child is baptised, the faith required must be their own faith in Christ, but when a child is baptised, then faith is required in  at least one of that child’s parents, for the baptism to be real and meaningful.

You will notice then, that in Reformed Protestant Churches, Christian Baptism is NOT  CHRISTENING! In other words, while Baptism brings a person within the fold of the visible church for instruction in righteousness, it DOES NOT MAKE THAT PERSON A CHRISTIAN.

The Christian parent who presents the infant child to be baptised does so knowing that their little baby is an inheritor of Adam’s sin, and that sin must be atoned for. Some day that little baby will have to come to Christ and be saved, and have his sins forgiven, if he is ever to be a member of  God’s true church. At baptism, they acknowledge that Christ is the only Saviour, and they enter into a Covenant with the Lord, that as they are faithful in bringing that child up in a loving Christian home, and within the visible church, instructing him in all righteousness, the Lord will, in due course, and in His Sovereign timing, draw that child to Himself for salvation.

 

2. WHO MAY BE BAPTISED?

The Savoy Declaration states, “Not only those that do actually profess faith in, and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptised, and those only.” From this statement, we can see that there are two groups of people for whom baptism is appropriate.

1. Believers. The Shorter Catechism calls these people, “Members of the visible church.” It does so because only the Lord really knows who His people really are, and we can only accept a person’s testimony, that they know and love Him. So, upon profession of faith in the Lord, a person may be baptised. However, a person baptised in infancy in a Scriptural manner will not need to be rebaptised upon conversion.

2. The Infant Children of Believers. These little babies are reckoned to be part of the great covenant promise that God gave to his people. They are ‘covenant children.’ In the Old Testament, the sign of the covenant was circumcision, which was administered to children, on the basis of the faith of their parents. In the New Testament, the sign of the Covenant is Baptism, and the same principles apply. Some will argue that in the book of Acts, and throughout the New Testament only adult believers were baptised, and that there is no specific record of infants having been baptised. But the early church baptised its first converts, and naturally those were all adults. Abraham had to be circumcised, and that was what we might call, ‘believer’s circumcision’ but that was because he was the first to receive this sign of the Covenant, but no one suggested that adult circumcision should continue! In fact the Bible does imply that Children are very important to the Lord, are capable of receiving spiritual blessings, and were among the early subjects of baptism, for the Scriptures speak of how whole households were baptised. This would have been in accordance with Jewish practice at the time. When a gentile convert came into Judaism, he was circumcised, but he was also baptised, as was HIS ENTIRE FAMILY! Christian baptism simply followed that practice, and thus we see in later writings of the early church. For example, Justin Martyr, writing about 150AD refers to Christians who had been baptised as babies some eighty years before. This would place the practice of infant baptism as early as 50 years after the death of Jesus, and we may be sure that it was being practised much earlier than that.

 

There is a clear analogy of infant baptism in the New Testament. In 1st Corinthians 10 Paul reminds his readers not to rely only on the fact that they had been baptised. Here are his words, 1 Cor. 10:1-5 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. He then adds, most emphatically, 1 Cor. 10:6. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 1 Cor. 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. When Moses passed under the cloud, says Paul that was a figure and type of baptism, and it has become, for us, and example. But we do know for certain that there were children with Moses that day, who were also ‘baptised under the cloud, for our example.’ Exodus 10:9-10 Exodus 10:24

This is a CLEAR INSTANCE OF INFANT BAPTISM! The Baptism of the believers of Israel, and their children! So we have confidence in declaring with the Shorter Catechism, “Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to Him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptised.”

 

3. HOW DO I DECIDE?

Is baptism appropriate for me, or for my child? Here is a simple ‘check-list’ to help you to decide whether you should ask for Christian Baptism.

Part 1. Adult Baptism. Can you make a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord? In other words, have you an experience of conversion to Christ which you are able to relate and to which you can testify?

Part 2. Infant Baptism.

  1. Can you, as a parent, make a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord?
  2. Can you truthfully promise that you will be a Christian Example to your child in your home, teaching him to read the Bible, pray and obey the Lord in all things?
  3. Can you truthfully promise that you will bring your child to Sunday School, and that you will, with him, faithfully and regularly attend the public worship of God in this church?  If you can truthfully answer YES to ALL of the above questions, then you, or your child may be baptised. If the answer to ANY ONE of these questions is NO or you are in some doubt about your ability to fulfil the vows taken at Baptism, then you should consider an alternative to baptism. In the case of an infant this could be a Thanksgiving Service or a Reception Service, a form of dedication, in which the parents and the congregation are able to properly return thanks to the Lord for the wonderful gift of a new life. Baptism is a sacrament, and it is a serious matter. Baptism should never be administered because it is a ‘nice thing to do’ or because of family tradition or religious custom. The vows that we make at baptism are taken before the Lord God Almighty, and we will be called upon to give account of how we have fulfilled the vows that we have taken. For more information, to discuss baptism further, or to explore the alternatives to baptism for those who cannot make a public declaration of faith, please contact a local reformed minister, who will be glad to advise you further on Christian Baptism.

The following Scripture texts are given in reference to the above:

Ephes. 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. John 10:3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. John 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Ephes. 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 1 Cor. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. Ephes. 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of

God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Acts 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Deut. 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Col. 2:11-12 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. Philip. 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Genesis 17:24-27 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Romans 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: Genesis 7:1 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Genesis 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Exodus 12:3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: Genesis 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. Mark 10:13-16 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.  Acts 16:14-15 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. Acts 16:33-34 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. 1 Cor. 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

From → Editorial

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